Letters: County needs to stop supermarket pricing plan

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The Dutchess County Legislature has attempted in the past, and is attempting again, to remove the individual price tags on the items in our supermarkets. This is detrimental for the labor force currently at work in the supermarket, but I have another concern, the consumer.

As it is now, item-pricing allows consumers to easily compare items that are similar but found in different parts of the store: for example, dry pasta compared to refrigerated soft pasta or the difference between a brand item and a generic brand. Item-pricing also helps those on tight budgets by enabling them to easily add up what’s in their cart.

The legislature’s proposal would replace individual pricing with one price on a shelf and would use aisle scanners and individual computer scanners for price checks. We all know that computer scanners are rarely 100 percent accurate. The last proposal allowed up to 2 percent of errors on the scanners. Two percent of the tens of thousands of items in a large supermarket means that consumers may be overcharged a huge amount of money.

The proposal also allowed as few as three scanners in a huge supermarket, which would make it inconvenient to compare shelf price to the scanned price. Since the aisle scanners are hooked up to the same computers as the register scanners, they will just reinforce an inaccurate price if the price is in the system.

The elimination of item-pricing legislation, as previously written, did not provide enough checks on the supermarkets. For example, the county’s Department of Health would be charged with checking the supermarkets to make sure the scanners are pricing correctly, and if they can’t get there to inspect, the supermarket would be issued a waiver until they can get there to inspect the scanners. How long will that be? Is the legislature prepared to fund more employees for the DOH so these inspections can happen regularly? How long will consumers be over-charged?

The Dutchess County Central Labor Council, representing 30,000 union members in the county, joins the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) in opposition to this proposal. I hope that the legislature will think about the seniors, veterans, and average citizens who are struggling in this economy and provide more protections for the consumer instead of less.

Scott Rajczi, President
Dutchess County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

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